Are Pinellas County DUI “Sobriety Checkpoints” Effective?


During a sobriety checkpoint, people are arrested or cited for a variety of crimes including DUI, driving while suspended license, possession of marijuana, or even civil traffic citations for failing to wear a seatbelt.

Sobriety checkpoint stops are the most heavily scrutinized under the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution.

Many of these cases can be won when your DUI attorney files and litigates a motion to suppress arguing that the roadblock was not set up or executed properly.

The best thing about these motions to suppress is that you are arguing not just that the stop of your client was illegal but that some part of the entire roadblock operation was illegal.

Many more witnesses are required because these DUI checkpoint motions contest the entire roadblock setup. The motion to suppress hearing can last several days, sometimes longer than the DUI trial.

After going through such a hearing, many prosecutors hate prosecuting the sobriety checkpoint cases because they know the DUI defense attorney will be filing a motion to suppress the stop.

When successful, the Court will grant the motion and exclude any evidence gained after the illegal stop, including the driver’s identity, field sobriety exercises, or breath test results.

The motion to suppress can be filed in any case affected by the checkpoint, including felony, misdemeanor, DUI, or even traffic infraction cases such a driving on a suspended driver’s license.

Being stopped at a DUI checkpoint or roadblock in Pinellas County, FL, can be a frustrating experience, even if you have done nothing wrong and escape without being issued a traffic infraction.

Deputies with the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office run a DUI checkpoint several times a year.

Many argue that stopping vehicles without reasonable suspicion or probable cause is an ineffective way to fight crime while at the same time causing considerable delay and frustration to thousands of drivers never arrested for any misdemeanor, DUI, or felony criminal offenses.

How many innocent drivers are inconvenienced? A recent article on Roadblock and DUI Checkpoints in Pinellas County shows that more than 30 deputies participated in the roadblock which caused an average delay to non-impaired drivers of one minute and 33 seconds.

More than 1,200 vehicles went through the checkpoint with 353 being diverted for further “assessment” by the officers.

With more than 30 officers involved, guess how many DUI arrests were made? Only 10. In fact, the total number of arrests was only 17. The math is pretty easy. Over the course of the entire evening, 30 officers made only 17 total arrests.

Would the taxpayers of Pinellas County have been better served if those 30 police officers had been patrolling the streets, responding to emergency calls, or investigating individuals for traffic infractions and possible DUI?

An additional benefit of the police actually doing their jobs in looking for actual criminals is that thousands of law-abiding citizens would not be delayed.

What is the real point of the roadblock? By making a “show of force,” law enforcement officers reinforce the idea that drinking and driving is unacceptable in Pinellas County

This argument is supported by the fact that all innocent drivers did not walk away empty-handed. Instead, they each received a pamphlet telling them the purpose of the Pinellas County DUI roadblock and checkpoint operation.

Those arrests and charges included:

  • 10 for DUI
  • two charges for refusal to submit to breath test
  • two charges for no valid driver license
  • two charges for driving while license suspended or revoked
  • two charges for possession of marijuana
  • one charge each for:
    • possession of hydrocodone
    • possession of oxycodone
    • possession of cocaine
    • carrying a concealed weapon
    • unauthorized possession of identification card
    • disorderly intoxication.

Deputies also impounded 11 vehicle and issued 33 traffic citations, primarily for not wearing a seatbelt.

Over the past twelve years, members of Remove Intoxicated Drivers (RID) have accompanied the law enforcement officers of every agency in Pinellas County during every DUI checkpoint or roadblock. Volunteers for RID even serve the officers refreshments during the checkpoint.

Are the DUI checkpoints worth the inconvenience to law-abiding citizens of Pinellas County?

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